Maybe the stress of all the safety recalls by parent Toyota, worldwide opprobrium, and those nasty inquisitors in the US Congress finally have gotten the better of the marketing minds at Lexus. Maybe it’s a simple matter of not having done their homework. Or maybe Lexus brandmeisters are just feeling the headiness of a nascent recovery in sales.
Either way, the latest idea for a promotional gambit out of Lexus marketers is a doozy: Put Sarah Silverman – the foul-mouthed, dark-leaning, completely unpredictable comic and actress – on stage with a Lexus-provided microphone and let her moderate a “debate” about the merits of global warming orthodoxy.
But that’s what Lexus reportedly is going to do. The Toyota luxury brand plans to launch its CT 200h hybrid compact at the New York International Auto Show next week with a panel discussion about global warming, with Silverman serving as “moderator.” Journalist Amanda Little and producer Phelim McAleer are supposed to debate the opposing sides of whatever off-the-wall questions Silverman actually might ask them.
The idea of even debating global warming is iconoclastic enough. Despite Climategate and other reports of at least irregularities in the science that undergirds the great climate-change consensus, few marketers have even been willing to touch the swelling controversy over the true future of our climate.
“Lexus hybrid vehicles have been designed to appeal both to the eco-minded and those unwilling to compromise on luxury and style,” explained David Nordstrom, vice president of Lexus marketing.
But toss the flame-throwing Silverman, host of her own Comedy Central show, into that volatile brew and you’re almost sure to get an explosion.
Surely, Lexus marketers must have forgotten to check the archives on the most recent disastrous promotional stunt at a major auto show.
Two years ago – in what turned out to be an early stanza of its ongoing swan song – Chrysler pulled a stunt at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that should have served as a warning. Chrysler marketers used the company’s revamped Dodge Ram pickup to drive a herd of 120 cattle through the streets of downtown Detroit, only to watch in feigned bemusement as some of the longhorns appeared to mount other cattle.
At least we can count on that not happening to Lexus – can’t we?